Interview with Amrita Bala of Crazy Vegan Kitchen
This week, I’m excited to feature Melbourne-based blogger Amrita Bala of the always amazing Crazy Vegan Kitchen.
In this Why I Cook column, I’ll ask some of my favorite bloggers questions about why they cook! If you aren’t already familiar with these bloggers, you’ll be introduced to some great ones. If you are already fans, you’ll definitely learn something new about them here!
Amrita Bala’s Aquafaba Macarons
I caught my first glimpse of Amrita’s work in 2015 around the time when all the vegans everywhere were making aquafaba macarons. I made more failed batches than I could count, and came across Amrita’s gorgeous Mint Chocolate Chip Macarons (look at those perfect feet and tops … if you’ve never tried it, it’s freakin’ hard to do!) and so I had instant respect for her skills and her humor about it along the way. I fell in love with her unique dishes, delivered with a side of sass and spunk. And she’s a cat lady too … I totally want to hang out with this chick! Here’s the next best thing: we discuss what drives her to create and cook, who influenced her love of cooking and where she was born and grew up. Take a look!
When did you start to cook and what about the process itself kept you interested in it?
I started cooking when I was about 13 years old—I had a sudden stroke of madness and was overcome by this intense desire to make the perfect brownies. As it goes, my first batch was an absolute FLOP! Being the perfectionist that I am, I swore that I’d try and try and try again, even 100 times if I had to, to finally perfect them. It was this drive that assisted me in maintaining my interest in cooking and baking. I used to always sit in front of the television as a child as well, watching cooking show after cooking show on the days I’d skip school (oops, sorry Mum!). I always knew this was what I was meant to do, in someway or another—whether that be blogging, working in a commercial kitchen or teaching others how to cook/bake.
Describe your process of recipe development. How do you come up with fresh and new ideas on a regular basis?
I usually just make things that I enjoy eating! I try not to follow trends as they come and go, and I base new posts simply off this simple quesion: “What do I want to eat this week?”. If I’m having a bit of a mental block, I’ll look back at the recipes I’ve made over the last decade and try my best to veganize them (such as my Ispahan Macarons which I am proud to say taste identical to their non-vegan counterparts!).
What influenced your love of cooking?
My grandma, her sisters and a few other family members of mine were always going on baking frenzies whenever they entertained, and I’d always pop my little head in and try to have a look at exactly what they were doing, why they were doing it and so on. I believe my interest in the culinary arts is something I was probably born with as it feels incredibly innate and natural. I’m someone who has struggle to do basic things such as drive a car or fix things around the house, but when it comes to picking up cooking or baking skills, it just happens instantly! I’m truly thankful I have found something that I am relatively good at doing, and also honoured to be able to continue in my grandmother and grandaunt’s footsteps when it comes to cooking up a storm!
Define your own style of cooking.
Simple, fresh, easy—for example, my Detox Quinoa Salad. I create recipes that everyone can make without having to go out of their way to buy special ingredients (we lead busy lives, ain’t nobody got time for that!). Once in a while, I like to fancy things up and head back to my pastry roots —I graduated from the Le Cordon Bleu London in 2012. I see these recipes (such as my Blackforest Gateau Trifles and Baked Oreo Cheesecake) as challenges because I have to relearn everything I learnt at a non-vegan establishment and try to veganize it whilst still staying true to a recipe’s roots and maintaining the integrity, flavour and overall eating experience. These are once in a while challenges for me, as most of the time I’m busy with my day job as a freelance content writer.
Describe the best dish you’ve ever made.
According to the people around me, it’s my Vegan Tiramisu! This recipe tastes IDENTICAL to its non-vegan counterpart, and I will most definitely put my money on that statement!
If your current self could give your past self one piece of sage cooking advice, what would it be?
Relax, breathe, not everything has to be perfect. I remember once going into a raging fit when my cheesecake turned out less than satisfactory. If I could give past me advice, it would be to calm your socks down! Relax, try again, but don’t lose sleep over it. Food and cooking are meant to be enjoyable experiences, not stressful once. Live and learn!
Do you have any culinary heroes?
First and foremost, my grandmother and my grandaunts, who are incredible cooks. Never have they ever referred to a recipe or measured anything out—it just comes to them naturally! I am a huge fan as well of the late Anthony Bourdain, Keith Floyd and Gordon Ramsey (he’s my kind of human with his potty mouth!). Although none of these people that I have mentioned are plant-based or vegan, I do admire their talent, skill and hardcore dedication to their craft.
If you could choose anyone to cook with in the kitchen, who would it be?
100% my Granny and her sisters. I wish I had spent more them in the kitchen with her whilst she was around.
If you could throw a party for anyone, who would be there and what would the menu look like?
First and foremost, my entire family and my friends. My cats would be there too, of course! For some reason, Michael Jackson comes to mind. He was my very first celebrity idol and I do believe he was an amazing human whom I wish I had the chance of meeting! I’d probably invite Pope Francis—he seems like a baller, and Jared Leto simply because I have a massive schoolgirl crush on him! I’d probably serve cute little appetizers in Chinese spoons (very Devil Wears Prada), and I’d probably go for an Asian theme because I just love the flavours of South East Asia—where I was born and grew up in. Knowing me, half the menu would probably comprise of dessert because I’m a sugar fiend!
Name one ingredient and a kitchen gadget you can’t live without.
Ingredient – TAHINI! I slather this stuff on EVERYTHING! People look at me funny when they see me pouring it out of the jar and onto all my food. It’s so damn good!
Kitchen Gadget – This changes from time to time, and at this present moment I’d have to say my microwave! Some may frown upon this, but I love being able to steam veggies in an instant without having to boil pots of water and creating a huge mess in the kitchen (hey, try cooking with 4 cats jumping about everywhere and then tell me the microwave isn’t your lord and saviour of the culinary world!).